Tag: Guest Post

Guest Post – The Biggest Fears You Must Overcome to Enjoy China

Guest Post – The Biggest Fears You Must Overcome to Enjoy China

China is, without a doubt, a beautiful and fascinating country. Old habits and customs seem to be intertwined with modern skyscrapers that seem to pop up every minute. While traveling to China was one of my lifelong dreams, there’s nothing in this world, including all the facts available online, that could’ve prepared me for the experience. Some of their traditions I’ve read about online, but some of them have definitely caught me off-guard at times and there were moments and situations where my jaw simply fell to the floor from the sheer amount of shock I experienced.

1.    Counting to ten using one hand

Chinese is one of the most difficult languages to master. There are thousands of different characters, most of which look almost identical to me. The language itself is tonal and unless you’re careful, your intonation can completely change the word you’re trying to say. I know very little Chinese and to make matters worse, very few Chinese people actually speak English. You might think to yourself “but it’s ok, I can probably use my hands to explain what I’m trying to say.”

You, my friend, have no idea how wrong you are. The difference in languages also extends to body language and gestures and the Chinese rely on a single hand to count to ten. Like that isn’t enough, you can also gesticulate larger numbers, like a hundred or a thousand.

2.    Squatters and Kaidangku

From my personal experience, I’ve noticed that the majority of bathrooms in China only offer squatting toilets or a cut in the tiles resembling a squatter. Most stall partitions are knee-high and I’ve seen stall-doors exactly two times. While we’re on the subject of bathrooms, most Chinese babies don’t wear diapers. In fact, what they wear is called “kaidangku”, which literally translates to open-crotch pants. I cannot describe how many times I’ve seen parents unzip their children’s crotch-zipper and let them urinate and defecate near a sidewalk.

3.    Carrying cash everywhere

I have read numerous stories online on how it’s a bad idea to rely on credit cards while traveling through China. In all honesty, I’ve only witnessed maybe a couple of stores that accept credit cards. Fortunately, this is not my first time traveling to countries that don’t readily accept credit cards and I’ve prepared financially by taking out a few personal loans. They’ve helped me pay off some of the more expensive travels which you would normally put on your credit card. But the thing is, online loans don’t butcher people with abnormally high interest rates and they can easily be paid off in monthly rates.

4.    “Poor” manners

What we westerners consider to be poor manners seem to be completely fine in China. Chewing with your mouth open, speaking with your mouth full, slurping loudly and last but not least, spitting everywhere. And I don’t mean the “sorry I have a cold, I honestly have to spit this gunk in a tissue” kind of spitting. People would be standing right next to you spit a slimeball mere inches from your feet.

Don’t get me wrong, traveling to China was one of the best and most memorable experiences of my life and I wouldn’t change it for the world. But the difference in culture is more than evident and unless you learn to adapt and overcome your fears and prejudices, you’ll hardly get the chance to truly experience all the wonders China has to offer. Most of it is truly wonderful, the people are friendly and welcoming and the food is absolutely amazing, once you get over the fact that they also eat insects. On a stick. Covered in chocolate.

Lauren Wiseman is marketing specialist, writer and entrepreneur, currently based in Melbourne. She helps clients grow their personal and professional brands in fast-changing and demanding market environment. Covering finance and investment topics, Lauren strongly believes in a holistic approach to business.

Guest Post – Guide to Fenghuang On A Budget

Guest Post – Guide to Fenghuang On A Budget

How much does a trip to Fenghuang cost? How to travel to Phoenix Ancient Town in the most economical way? Those may be the popular questions if you are planning for the journey to Fenghuang Town. In the following article, I will share with you some experiences to help you make this dream come true only with a limited budget. In my opinion, this trip is the most suitable for those who are between the ages of 18 to 26.

General information about Fenghuang

Fenghuang, or Phoenix, is the name of an ancient town in China (more than 1300 years old). It is located in Fenghuang district which is a county of Hunan Province under the administration of Xiangxi Autonomous Prefecture. It is nearly 300km from Phoenix Ancient Town to Zhangjiajie city which is also a famous tourist destination in China. To come to Fenghuang Ancient Town, you have to go through Zhangjiajie first, therefore you can combine traveling to Zhangjiajie with the trip to Fenghuang.

The landscape of this wonderland is seemly taken from the historical dramas. There is a diversity of population structure because it is the residence of ethnic minorities, most of which are Miao, Han, and Tzu Gia groups. Fenghuang is also the economic, social and political center of the region. Next to the Da Giang River, the ancient town still retains many ancient citadels, streets, houses, manors, temples, and pagodas. Its age has made Phoenix Ancient Town become one of the living museums of ethnic cultures: 1300 years.

At night, the town seems to be more sparkling, more beautiful than the day. The lights from ancient bungalows down to the surface of the river create a fanciful and ancient scene for the town.

In general, the weather in here is quite comfortable and the best time to visit Phoenix Ancient Town is the spring. Based on my experience, you should avoid coming here in any Chinese national holiday, especially in the Independence Day of China, because on these occasions, Fenghuang will be more crowded.

To ensure the plan of working and studying, you can visit here in summer or any long holiday of the year because Fenghuang is beautiful all year round, not necessarily to go in the spring. In addition, you should go in a group to reduce travel expenses.

How to come to Fenghuang Ancient Town the most economical way

There are 3 ways going to Fenghuang as follow:

By plane

You will move from your location to Guangzhou and then from

Guangzhou to Zhangjiajie. After that, you catch the bus from Zhangjiajie to Phoenix Ancient Town (it is obliged because no other choice is available).

The airfares for these routes are quite expensive so you can refer 2 other ways to save the cost: by train and by bus.

By train

In Pingxiang, you do immigration procedures. When filling in the declaration form, in the part of Intended Address in China, you write “Nanning” to complete. After that, you buy the train ticket from Nanning to Jishou train station in Zhangjiajie. It takes nearly 15 hours. The train departs at 17:50 in Nanning and arrives at Zhangjiajie at 8:20 of the next day. You can book the train ticket in advance on travelchinaguide.com.

Finally, you move more than 50km more by bus to come to Phoenix Ancient Town.

By bus

At Youyi Guan international border gate, you have to pay about 0.5$ for the electric car and it will take you to the place of entry procedures.

As same as going by plane, they will give you a declaration of entry. The declaration is available at the table near the counter. You just take the pen and open the passport to copy information only. After that, you can walk or go by electric car (0,9$) to the bus station.

The bus from the border gate to Nanning train station departs at 12:30 and arrives at 16:00.

You can choose between the 2 following types depended on your budget and the number of people in your group:

  • 12-seat car: 17$/person or 68$ (renting the whole car).
  • Bus from Zhangjiajie (Jishou train station) -5 buses per day: It takes 3.5 hours and the ticket price is about 12$/person.

From the bus station of Phoenix Ancient Town to the center, you can move by taxi at the price of 3$.

Suggested summary schedule in 5 days

The 5-day trip is reasonable for you to visit Zhangjiajie and Fenghuang Ancient Town, including 2 days of moving, as follow:

  • Day 1: Nanning – Zhangjiajie
  • Day 2: Visit Tianmen Shan (200m from Zhangjiajie). In here, there is a famous glass road.
  • Day 3: Take the train from Zhangjiajie to Phoenix Ancient Town.
  • Day 4: Discover Fenghuang where there are a lot of beautiful landscapes to visit.
  • Day 5: Phoenix Ancient Town – Jishou – Nanning.  

 

Notes when traveling to Fenghuang

  • For the Chinese visa, you should apply 15 days before your trip.
  • Money: you should prepare about 2500-3000 yuan during the journey ($350-$450). In Fenghuang Town, ATM (automated teller machine) is not popular and the credit card is not accepted when you buy food or drink.
  • If going by train, you should prepare some snacks and water.
  • English is useless in here, so you should study some common Chinese sentences or buy a SIM card in the gas station or the airport to use Google translation tool. A SIM card costs about $7.5. Another way which may be helpful for you is setting up Pleco application (an online Chinese dictionary) on your phone.
  • Bring your coat or a thin blanket because at any time of the year, the weather in Fenghuang is bitter cold.
  • Spend at least 2-3 days to explore this ancient town. In the evening, along 2 river banks, there are many bars, coffee shops, and restaurants at the affordable prices.
  • Download Astrill to access Facebook and Viber because China blocks the international network.
  • Do not be ashamed when bargaining and you will definitely get a discount.
  • The food here is very delicious and cheap but also quite spicy. If you cannot eat the spicy dishes, tell the cook before he or she prepares the food for you.
  • The landscape here is incredibly wonderful, so you will take a lot of photos as well as shoot many videos. Therefore, remember to bring a rechargeable battery to not miss any beautiful moments.
  • In Phoenix Ancient Town, there are many hotels available. You can book in advance or find yourself a good place to stay after arriving. The room price is about 15$/day/twin room (not included meals).

I hope that the above information will be helpful for you. Have a nice trip!

My name is Jim, writer at Asia Marvels. I love traveling around Asia and share my stories & travel guidelines to my readers. I want people from all over the world to see the beauty of the landscape, people and culture of Asia.

 

Guest Post – 6 Best Natural Wonders to Explore in China

Guest Post – 6 Best Natural Wonders to Explore in China

Due its rich culture and plethora of natural wonders, China is among the most incredible travel destinations. It boasts a wide variety of landscape and places to visit, from sandstone pinnacles, to turquoise lakes, to white sand beaches. There’s truly something here to quenches everyone’s travel craving. Consider visiting these 6 arguably best natural wonders that China has to offer.

Jiuzhaigou

Imagine yourself sitting on the shore, gazing up in every direction at snow-capped mountains. You’re swept up by multicolored trees and bottomed by turquoise-infused waters. Take one look at this place for yourself and you’ll see why it tops the list of the best natural wonders in China. Situated in the northern-most area of the Sichuan province, Jiuzhaigou is a wonder of its own. When translated, Jiuzhaigou means “Valley of Nine Fortified Villages.” It’s no wonder that tourists and locals alike escape here from bigger cities to experience this unspoiled land. Unfortunately, the national park is closed due to the extensive damage of the earthquake in August 2017. But don’t fret, as it’s rumored to be opening back up sometime within the next year.

Li River, Guangxi

Whether you fancy a rustic bamboo raft or a luxury cruise ship, the Li River is an absolute must see for any wanderer traveling to China. Towering above the blue river, limestone mountains can be seen for miles and miles as they fade from a green jungle tint to a faded blue haze. Keep your camera handy as there are many unique natural land curvatures that you certainly don’t want to miss.

Reed Flute Cave

Calling all musicians and artists: this cave is more than just a natural wonder. Also known as “the Palace of Natural Arts,” the Reed Flute cave is a 787-foot-long, water-eroded cave that grows an abundant supply of reed used to make flutes. Once functioning as a bomb shelter, this cave was rediscovered by fleeing Japanese troops in the 1940s. Once inside, you can see the faint yet distinct petrified remains of jellyfish and snails interspersed around the cave’s floor. Although a natural work of art, artificial mood lighting has been placed throughout the cave to provide an even more immersive experience. Once finished with your tour, make sure to bring some spare cash to purchase a reed flute of your own!

Yellow Mountains

Dating back to 747 AD, the Yellow Mountains weren’t named for their color, but specifically because of the Yellow Emperor, Huang Di. With quite the variety of features, the Yellow Mountains are one of the most famous and popular mountainous regions of China. Its most well-known features are its hard-wood yet character-ridden pine trees, interestingly shaped rocks, “seas of cloud,” and hot springs. Located just 300 miles southwest of Shanghai, it’s just far enough away from the hustle of the city, yet close enough for an easy commute. With numerous attractions, hotels, and restaurants, plan to spend a little extra time to fully experience the rich culture and beauty of the Yellow Mountains. 

Stone Forest

Lying in the depths of China’s Yunnan Province sits the iconic Shilin. Carved by earthquakes and the elements, one could easily get lost among its giant pillars of limestone. With natural separations of caves, waterfalls, ponds, an underground river, and an even an island lake, make sure this place is on your itinerary. One famous legend tells of a beautiful maiden named Ashima who was kidnapped by the boy of an evil landlord. Against her will, she was put but in bondage and forced to marry him. Later, her true love, Ahei, came to her rescue with bows and arrows. He was too late as she drowned in a flood on the way home and transformed into what’s commonly known today as the Ashima rock. To the local Sani people, she’s seen as their protector. If possible, visit on June 24th where the Sanis hold a torch festival at Shilin to honor their many traditions. 

Longsheng Rice Terraces, Guangxi

Just when you thought China could not get any more diverse in its natural beauty, rice paddies (or rice terraces) can’t be left out. Although manmade, this perfectly chiseled landscape is unmatched in its beauty and craftsmanship. Over 700 years old, rice is still farmed on these lands by the local Yao and Zhuang villagers. Resembling almost perfectly carved steps, the ancient topography makes use of scarce resources such as flat land and limited water supply. If you happen to visit right after the rain, the terraces that the grandeur of this natural wonder up a notch. It’s no wonder this place is among the top stops for professional photographers and artists alike. And make sure to greet the extremely friendly and hospitable locals with “Nín hǎo” (hello) along the way!

Boasting the world’s greatest number and variety of world-class natural wonders, it’s nearly impossible to not fall in love with China. Whether you’re up for an adventure in the desert, mountains, beaches, forests, or even just interested in seeing incredibly unique sites, China’s natural wonders are bound to have something special for you.

Micah Trostle is an 18-year-old photographer, videographer, and travel writer for trekbible. Although he was born in the USA, his home is Papua New Guinea, where he enjoys adventure sports, camping, and loving on people! He is passionate about Papua New Guinea and hopes to move back in the near future to impact business development and help to expand communities.

Great Tips For Traveling While Vegetarian

Great Tips For Traveling While Vegetarian

Traveling if you’re on a vegetarian diet isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible either. Thankfully, you can now easily go online and find more information about the new places that you want to visit. You can plan ahead and see what kinds of dishes are available and applicable to your vegetarian diet.

Before you start packing for your next trip, here are a few tips to help you enjoy your travel without ruining your eating habits.

  1. Know the culture of the country you are planning to visit. Most Asian countries serve a wide variety of healthy foods but the ingredients may be different from what you are used to. Understand how they usually cook their food and check if they can serve meals according to your vegetarian diet.
  2. Understand their menu. When you go to a restaurant (especially in Asia), it’s likely that you’ll get confused with the name of their dishes. Search for their common dishes so you have a better idea of what dishes to order once you get there.  
  3. Check the ingredients of the country’s vegan and vegetarian meals. It can be hard to communicate in English when you are in another country. They may not understand your vegetarian diet and as a result, you will end up with some foods that you are unable to eat.
  4. https://pixabay.com/en/almonds-nuts-roasted-salted-1768792/

    Check the local restaurants. Search for restaurants that serve vegetarian meals. Most vegetarians say that it is easy to find vegan breakfasts and lunches in Japan, as well as other parts of Asia. As a quick tip, know if Buddhism is being practiced in the country you’re traveling to. China, India, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, and other Asian countries are home to some of the world’s biggest Buddhist groups, so you’re sure to find good vegetarian meals there.

  5. Pack your snacks and bring them wherever you go. Packing your own food is the best way to stick to your vegetarian diet while traveling. Walking around a new city can be exhilarating, but it can tire you out as well. Thus, it’s safe to keep your stomach full while visiting different spots to avoid giving in to the temptation of eating whatever you find available while on the road.
  6. Check out the pictures on menus. One of the safest ways to eat in China (as well as in Hong Kong and Macau) is to look for a menu that has pictures. If you don’t understand the names of the dishes, pictures can help you determine what food to order.
  7. https://pixabay.com/en/males-children-picture-board-2930539/

    Learn some foreign phrases in the country you are visiting. Know the words that will help you order the food of your choice. You can’t expect everyone to understand your vegan diet, especially when you can’t explain what kind of foods are you looking for. By learning a few phrases from another language, you can easily place an order if you know the names of the foods that you like.

  8. Ask your hotel or hostel for recommendations. They can provide you a wealth of information regarding their local cuisine.
  9. If you have the budget, look for hotels or hostels that feature a kitchen. That way, you can cook your own food and store your healthy snacks if you don’t find any local dishes to your liking.
  10. Dine with local vegetarians. You can check out vegetarian forums online and meet with them. They can tell you about some great spots that serve healthy meals.
  11. Bring some hot sauce and spices with you. Sauce and spices can enhance the taste, which can help a lot when the local dish is too bland for your taste buds.
  12. Explore the local markets. They can offer more variety of healthy foods at cheaper prices. You’d be surprised at the local fruits, vegetables, bread, and other vegetarian meals you’ll discover.
  13. If you’ll be traveling by air, make sure to indicate that you prefer a vegetarian or vegan meal when booking your flight. You don’t want to be stuck with a non-vegetarian meal and find yourself starving on your way to your destination.

Claire works in marketing team at Brillopak, a premium quality, small footprint robotic packing, food packing machine and palletizing machine manufactures in the United Kingdom. In a former life, Claire worked as a content specialist and she loves writing, reading & cooking.

 

Fragrant Lamb and Bamboo Shoot Soup – Recipe By Tiana Matson

Fragrant Lamb and Bamboo Shoot Soup – Recipe By Tiana Matson

Fragrant Lamb and Bamboo Shoot Soup

Lamb is good for you and is perfect for warm winter casseroles and satisfying comfort food. Lamb can increase your body heat to resist the cold, so it is one of the best ingredients for winter meals.

I remember during my childhood, my thrifty grandparents ate mostly vegetarian, but always cooked up a big batch of lamb soup every winter.

Lamb has a stronger smell than beef and poultry that is not liked by everyone, and some simply won’t eat it due to its unique ‘aroma.’ Lamb is so versatile, and often a cheaper alternative than beef, so it’s worth taking a good look at what you can do with it besides a leg roast and chops.

The method of cooking lamb is the same as for beef. You can braise it, stew it, make soup with it, even stir fry it. The difference is that to reduce lamb’s smell and increase its aroma, wine and spices are often used.

I often use lamb mostly for soup if I want a meat soup, however, it is also delicious braised and served with rice noodles. Today’s recipe is an Asian twist on lamb soup, and I’m sure you’ll love it!

The standard practice for lamb soups is to use herbs, but this time I’m using fresh bamboo shoots.

Sweet bamboo shoots are low in calories, low in fat, and rich in vitamins and fiber. Served with lamb (or steak) chops, the sweet bamboo shoots aid digestion.

This soup is different from the usual thick winter soup often made with lamb, but it highlights the lamb chops and sweet bamboo shoots, rather than just using the lamb as a stock base.

Ingredients:

300 g peeled sweet bamboo shoots

300 g lamb chops

150 ml cooking wine

800 ml boiling water

1 x 2” piece ginger

1 tablespoon tea oil

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

 

Method:

Step 1

Wash the lamb chops and drain.

Step 2

Cut the sweet bamboo shoots in half lengthwise and wash. Slice the bamboo diagonally and put aside.

Step 3

Add the sweet bamboo shoots to a pot and fill with enough water to come to the top of them.

Step 4

Bring the bamboo shoots to the boil, and boil for 2-3 minutes.

Step 5

Remove the bamboo shoots with a skimmer and put aside.

Step 6

Add the lamb shops to the water and boil for 20 seconds. Remove and put aside. Discard the water.

Step 7

Wash and slice the ginger.

Step 9

Pour the tea oil in in the pan and spread it to cover the surface.

Step 10

Add the chopped ginger and sauté for a few seconds, and then add the lamb. Stir fry until golden brown.

Step 11

Pour in the cooking wine and simmer for 30 seconds.

Step 12

Pour in the 800ml of boiling water.

Step 13

Skim off the foam floating on the surface with a spoon.

Step 14

Transfer the meat and the liquid to a ceramic soup pot and simmer for 20 minutes.

Step 15

Add the sweet bamboo shoots and continue to simmer the soup on low for one hour.

Step 16

Finally, season with salt and pepper, and serve.

COOKNG TIPS:

  1. Tea oil has the effect of ridding the ‘fishy’ smell from the meat, however, if you don’t have any tea oil at home, you can use other cooking oil instead.
  2. The green wine can be replaced with cooking wine.
  3. Boiling the sweet bamboo shoots helps to remove the oxalic acid.

SUMMARY

Warm and hearty, Sweet Bamboo Shoots and Lamb Soup is a perfect tummy filler for those chilly days. Fragrant and satisfying!

Tiana is a food blogger who loves to cook, she is the creator of https://www.yumofchina.com/, a site that shares authentic Chinese recipes and China culture.

Guest Post – How To Travel On A Budget And Make Money While Traveling by Lysha Rohan

Guest Post – How To Travel On A Budget And Make Money While Traveling by Lysha Rohan

Before you decide to spend the rest of your life in one comfy place and do the same things every day, why not invest in travel? Whether it’s for a much-needed vacation or in pursuit of knowledge, traveling to foreign, exotic places is indeed fulfilling. But there’s a better way to improve your lifestyle while reaping the rewards of a great adventure — making money while traveling.

You’ve probably heard a lot about people quitting their regular jobs to find another source of income. Others have tried traveling while still earning money with a nine-to-five desk job. If you belong to the latter category and want to keep your regular job, yet still earn extra moolah while on a trip, here are some tips on how to travel on a budget and make money while traveling.

  1. Start a travel blog.

This is the common route for a lot of people whenever they think of making money from their travels. Although it doesn’t really guarantee an instant, stable flow of income, starting a travel blog can help boost your earning potential. For one, featuring sponsored content on your blog is usually where most of the profits come from. Once big organizations take notice of your content, they may actually start paying you to travel and blog for them.

You don’t even have to restrict yourself to a written blog or a vlog. You can do both! Plus, launching — and maintaining — your blog is a great way to build up your experience AND portfolio. If you’re dedicated to it, you will soon establish a good rep and solid footing as an online travel journalist.

  1. Sell your travel photos.

One of the many joys that come with traveling is taking photos of your adventures. To add to the previous point, photography also means big business for bloggers. You can post your photos on Instagram or any social networking site to promote your work, so you can eventually sell them as stock images and prints for big organizations.

Another freelance platform that you can consider selling your travel photos in Upwork. Turning your pictures into cash cows can be a great source of passive income while focusing on other matters. If you want to get another source of extra income, Upwork offers a variety of online opportunities such as video production, game development, virtual assistant work, and a lot more. With that, you can work anytime and anywhere while still having the money and time to travel.

  1. Find or make products you can sell on eBay.

Another option is selling retail travel items on eBay, provided that you’re credible enough to do so. eBay is usually the best place to sell exotic items you’ve purchased abroad. If you’re the artsy type, you can craft your own products based on your travels (e.g. the brush paintings you’ve seen in China) and sell them in online art stores such as Etsy.

  1. Rent out your space.

Say you’re traveling to the United States and leaving your flat in China behind for a few days or a week. Turn that into an opportunity to earn some money while traveling — rent out your space! You can sign up to be a host at AirBnB (though it comes with a registration fee), but you can get that investment back when somebody rents out your space. Be sure to take attractive photos your place, describe it accurately, and have someone to check on stuff while you’re gone, especially if it’s your first time to rent it out.

You can also check out other sites for listing your space, such as Craigslist and Apartments.com.

About the Author

Lysha works at Lalco Residency – Hotel Mumbai and she loves her job. Helping clients and monitoring the progress of business strategies along with her leadership skills makes her a perfect fit for hospitality services. You can catch up with Lysha at Lalco Residency in Mumbai.

Interview with Kay Bratt – Author of The Palest Ink

Interview with Kay Bratt – Author of The Palest Ink

Today I’m happy to have talked to Kay Bratt, the author of The Palest Ink.  Kay Bratt is a child advocate and author of the series Tales of the Scavenger’s Daughters and the acclaimed memoir of the years she spent working in Chinese orphanages, Silent Tears: A Journey of Hope in a Chinese Orphanage. After living in China for several years, Bratt now resides in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in South Carolina with her husband, daughter, dog, and cat. Learn more about her memoir and works of fiction at www.kaybratt.com.

Be sure to read all the way to the end for your chance to win a copy of The Palest Ink!

  • For those who may not be familiar with your background, tell me about your experiences in China and how they influenced your writing.

The Palest Ink jacketI lived in China for almost five years when my husband’s company relocated us there for business. During my years as an expat, in addition to learning to combat culture shock the bulk of my time and energy was spent on volunteer work for the local orphanage. Not only did I find myself attaching to many of their children, but it was in the midst of the women who worked there that I became captivated by the lives of the working class Chinese people.

  • How did this latest book come about? Is it part of a larger narrative?

The idea for The Palest Ink came about a few years after the first book in my best-selling series, The Tales of the Scavenger’s Daughters was published. That book was inspired by a newspaper article I’d read of a scavenger in China who took in abandoned girls and raised them. The main character in the book is elderly, but it started with a prologue of him escaping from a commune when he was but a young man. His experiences during the Cultural Revolution were alluded to and set the foundation for the kind of man he grew into. Readers commented often in reviews and on social networking that they’d love to know more about his time during that period. As I wrote each subsequent book to highlight more about him and his adopted daughters, more ideas came to me about experiences that could’ve shaped his self-sacrificing persona. I began doing more research on the Cultural Revolution and the survivor stories I stumbled onto were captivating yet harrowing. Many of those accounts are woven within the pages of The Palest Ink to bring authenticity to the novel.

  • Many of your works focus on your own experiences in China, but this book was set in the Cultural Revolution. Was this book a step outside of your comfort zone as a writer?

I began planning this book almost two years ago and during that time, I told myself I wasn’t yet ready to write it. It took those two years of making notes and gathering research before I felt comfortable enough to tackle such an important story set during a catastrophic time in history for China. It is my goal to use my characters and their heart-wrenching storylines in The Palest Ink to pay tribute to those who survived, and to the memory of those who did not.

  • What are you working on now/next?

Currently I’m tackling a story based on the injustices the Chinese experienced upon immigrating to the United States in the late nineteenth century. Two of the main characters were bought and used as domestic servants in Hong Kong and decide to make their break for freedom, but find that Gold Mountain isn’t all it was made out to be in their imaginations. Another child, destined to be abandoned in China, is smuggled out of the country and those bound to protect her will find that she ultimately is the answer to their quest for security.

  • Stepping away from the book for a moment, would you like to share anything about your work as an advocate for children in the Chinese welfare system?

01-unbrokenWorking as an advocate for children in the Chinese welfare system, I came face to face with many myths and misconceptions. I myself came into the orphanage with pre-conceived notions and it took immersing in their culture for several years to become re-educated about their child welfare issues. Most importantly to me, it is untrue that the Chinese do not love their daughters. Many baby girls are relinquished for the reason that the family cannot afford them, especially when they are born with any sort of special need or medical condition. Though hard, mothers often relinquish their children in the hopes that the child will receive the care they need and is not afforded by the mother or her family. The majority of children I knew in the orphanage had some sort of special need or medical condition. Rarely did I meet an absolutely healthy child.

  • How can expats in China help China’s orphans?

In addition to supporting reputable non-profit organizations already on the ground in China, if an expat can connect with a volunteer group that does work at their local orphanage, it’s best to work with them to help China’s orphans. A volunteer there can give a list of accurate needs, as well as monitor how any donations are used to confirm it is for the children’s best interest. If there is not a volunteer group already in place, an expat can work with the facility to start one! One can read my memoir, Silent Tears; A Journey of Hope in a Chinese Orphanage, to see how it all worked out for me.

~*~

“Bratt brings to life the struggle of two individuals during China’s terrible time that all should know about with an honest, yet compassionate style. She brings us as close as we ever want to be to an evil time, yet shows some found the courage to preserve their dignity. A must-read.”

—Mingmei Yip, author of Skeleton Women and other China-inspired novels

“The Revolution itself is well-documented and the historical significance of Chairman Mao’s Red Guard leaves fear in its wake. The danger and fear that come through the writing create discomfort and unrest, much as it must have been during the times. The danger is palpable, and adds to the chaotic feelings left after the reading of this work. If you enjoy history, revolution, courage, romance and family, then this will make a great work for your library. Kay Bratt has given us a work of intensity.” —Blogcritics.org 

“A mesmerizing and moving story of coming of age.” —Fresh Fiction

The Palest Ink, the story of Benfu’s early years fills in so many gaps in my knowledge of China during the Cultural Revolution, a topic that is practically taboo in China right now. This prequel to the four Scavenger’s Daughters books shows me what the Chinese term ‘eating bitter’ really means. Kay Bratt sure has done her research, and presents the tale of those tumultuous years in a fascinating narrative.” —Sibylla Grottke, WanderlustAndChineseInk.com

THE PALEST INK

by Kay Bratt

Author and child advocate Kay Bratt has captivated readers all over the world with her compelling and vivid books about China and its people. She lived there for almost five years and was drawn to the cause of China’s forgotten and abused orphans. Her experiences working in a local orphanage and fighting against the Chinese bureaucracy as she tried to change the social conditions led her to write a bestselling memoir, Silent Tears, A Journey of Hope in a Chinese Orphanage. She also wrote a series of novels set in modern day, Tales of the Scavenger’s Daughters, based on the true stories of some remarkable Chinese people she’d read about. Over the years, readers have clamored to know the origin story of the series’ beloved character, Benfu. 

book1Now, here is Benfu’s story in THE PALEST INK (Lake Union Publishing; Publication date: October 27, 2015), a beautifully rendered novel about two best friends from different walks of life, set against the backdrop of Chairman Mao’s tumultuous Chinese Revolution. 

In 1966, Mao Zedong launched the Cultural Revolution in order to reassert his authority over the Chinese government. All over China he shut down the nation’s schools, calling for a massive youth mobilization to take current party leaders to task for their embrace of bourgeois values and lack of revolutionary spirit. In the months that followed, the movement escalated quickly as the students formed paramilitary groups called the Red Guards and attacked and harassed members of China’s elderly and intellectual population. At the beginning of the Revolution, Benfu is a sheltered son of scholars who is looking forward to a promising career as a violinist. On the other side of town, Pony Boy belongs to a close-knit lower class family who is faced with a perilous opportunity. The upheaval all around them forces Benfu and Pony Boy to grow up quickly, and they must make some hard choices between family, friendship, and loyalty to country while doing their best to survive one of the most chaotic times in history.

Kay Bratt tells a story both intimate and epic, weaving fiction with real-life accounts of innocent people who were persecuted, beaten and imprisoned, with their families torn apart. She discovered through her research that the truth about what really happened during what was informally called “The Ten Years of Chaos” was all but wiped from the history books due to Mao’s efforts to suppress accounts of his abuse of power and hide them from the world.

 For readers of Lisa See and Amy Tan, or anyone eager for an engrossing book about friendship, family, loyalty and the fight for truth and justice, THE PALEST INK will inspire you, consume you, and touch your heart.

~*~

 About the author

Kay Bratt, credit Eclipse Photography StudioKay Bratt is a child advocate and author. She was born in Kansas and lived all over the U.S. before settling in the Carolinas. Kay’s experiences of growing up as the constant new kid—and usually one of the poorest—ignited a passion to advocate for children in need when she became an adult.

When Kay’s husband’s career took them overseas to live in China, she was drawn to the cause of that country’s forgotten and abused orphans and devoted herself to working in a local orphanage. She found that journaling helped her to bear the emotional impact of the abhorrent conditions she witnessed. Upon her return to the U.S. after five years in China, Kay wrote about her experiences and her fight against the Chinese bureaucracy as she tried to change the social conditions in a bestselling memoir, Silent Tears, A Journey of Hope in a Chinese Orphanage. The book resonated with readers all over the world and became a bestseller. She continued to write, but it was when she came across an article about a scavenger in China who took in abandoned children that she was inspired to write the book that launched her bestselling fiction series, The Tales of the Scavenger’s Daughters.

Her new novel, THE PALEST INK, a prequel of sorts to The Tales of the Scavenger’s Daughters, will be published by Lake Union Publishing on October 27, 2015.

Kay continues to be a voice for children who cannot speak for themselves. In addition to using her writing to gain awareness, she has actively volunteered for several non-profit organizations, including An Orphan’s Wish (AOW), Pearl River Outreach, and the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for abused and neglected children. In China, she was honored with the Pride of the City award for humanitarian work.

Kay lives in South Carolina, at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains with her husband, daughter, dog, and cat.

www.kaybratt.com | @kaybratt

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Robot Restaurant in Harbin, China

Robot Restaurant in Harbin, China

Today’s guest post was submitted by Barbie Jazz. 

The future is here! A restaurant in downtown Harbin employs around 20 robots instead of humans to take orders, cook, serve, and entertain guests. robot-restaurant-5[6]The restaurant opened back in June 2012 and remains a popular tourist spot in Heilongjiang.

As soon as guests walk in, a front-of-the-house robot warmly greets them with, “Earth person, hello! Welcome to Robot Restaurant!” Then, they are guided to an empty table. After browsing the menu, guests can place their orders through the robots, which are then relayed to robot chefs who are able to consistently cook several types of noodles and dumplings. Once the dishes have been cooked, a robot waiter will take them and deliver them to the customers’ tables. The robots are true eye candy, especially when they start to sing after serving the meals to guests.

robot-restaurant-1[2]China Daily estimates that these entertaining and useful robots range from 1.3 – 1.6 meters in height. They can show more than 10 different facial expressions and speak simple Chinese. Perhaps these robots show a sad face when a food item is out of stock. Of course, not everything works automatically as some of the robots’ movements are controlled by human staff sitting inside a computer room.

The robots were designed and created by a local business called Harbin Haohai Robot Company. Liu Hasheng, the company’s chief engineer, says that the management invested around 5 million yuan into the restaurant, with each robot costing around 200,000 – 300,000 Yuan. Food costs around 30 – 60 yuan per item, so the company is probably just using the restaurant as a promotional material than an actual profitable business. Perhaps the company is doing this so they can get noticed by big businesses, particularly the gambling industry in Macau, which is always in need of personnel. robot-restaurant-550x377These establishments operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, making robots the perfect substitute for humans during dead hours. According to resource website Mayfair Casinos, the Venetian Macao is the biggest hotel and casino establishment in Macau, and Harbin Haohai’s robots will make perfect employees for this enormous place that is always in need of able hands.

The Robot Restaurant in Harbin isn’t the first robot restaurant in the world. In 2010, a restaurant in Jiang used robots to replace line cooks. In Hajime Restaurant in Thailand, robots that look like samurai have replaced the job of human waiters.

Two Americans in China is always accepting guest posts and books for review. For more information, contact us at TwoAmericansinChina@gmail.com. 

Xi’An’s Very Own Capsule Hotel

Xi’An’s Very Own Capsule Hotel

Today’s guest post was submitted by Karen. I love staying in inexpensive hostels when traveling around China. This new capsule hotel might be worth checking out if you ever visit Xi’an. 

capsule 2Taking up an entire floor of a commercial center near Xi’An’s train station is China’s first, fully-functional capsule hotel. Capsule hotels were popularized by Japan, and China’s construction of the same concept is a nod to the Japanese culture that’s popular among the Chinese youth.

Each capsule in the Xi’an Youth Capsule Hotel is 1.25 meters high, 1.2 meters wide, and 2.1 meters long. For about $10 a night, people can sleep cozily in a capsule that is complete with a WiFi connection and a small flat-screen TV.

Apart from the hotel rooms’ personal size, Xi’an’s capsule hotel differentiates itself from the rest by having zodiac sign themed areas. The staff classifies guests into different star-sign zones upon checking in. Men can only sleep in the Taurus and Sagittarius zones, while women may stay at the Aries and Virgo zones. Guests who snore loudly are assigned to the Leo zone, the zodiac sign for lion.

The hotel’s staff says that the Leo zone is not meant to embarrass anyone. It was constructed in order to be fair to guests who want peace and quiet while sleeping.

capsul hotelWhile the hotel is still very novel to both locals and tourists, experts are worried about the lack of amenities. Hotels around the world rely on casinos in order to bring in serious revenues. Staying in the hotel may only cost $10 a night but apart from an Internet connection, TV, and a small area for table games that offer entertainment like ping pong, there are no other facilities to entertain guests. Pundits have been suggesting that the hotel employ the services of an online casino provider since there’s WiFi and a small screen TV inside the capsules anyway. It would be very advantageous for the hotel to have an online casino service, and InterCasino – one of the biggest slot gaming providers in the world – enumerates several benefits of such games on this page. The capsule hotel’s management, however, doesn’t seem to be very interested in the idea yet. But hopefully it’s only a matter of time before the establishment looks to offer more entertainment to its visitors.

The Xi’an Youth Capsule Hotel is located at Building 7, Wanda Plaza, Mingle Yuan Xincheng District, Xi’an.

Have you ever stayed at a capsule hotel? Where do you like to stay when you visit Xi’an?

If you would like to submit a guest post to Two Americans in China, email us at TwoAmericansinChina@gmail.com. 

How I Met Your Father – Love in 1980s China

How I Met Your Father – Love in 1980s China

While watching the American TV show “How I Met Your Mother,” I asked my mom how she met my father.

“Why do you want to know that? It is not romantic at all,” she asked.

“Oh, come on, I just want to hear your story,” I replied.

“I grew up in a family without much love, especially our father’s love,” she began. “I was the 4th daughter in my family, the child they never wanted. You can tell that from my name. My oldest sister was named Jia Lian, which means “family union;” my second sister was named “Jia Pin,” which means “family peace;” Third Sister was named Yuan Feng, which means “no more daughters.” Then I came into the world. I know they were disappointed – they just want a son. But it wasn’t my fault. They named me Ju, which means “chrysanthemum” just because I was born in the fall. Then finally, my brother came, so they gave all their attention and love to him. I was all but forgotten even though I was only 2 years older than he was.

“I never liked my father – he was his son’s father, not a father to his daughters. But I don’t blame my mother; she was always a kind woman. She did what she had to do. And I thank my sisters for being the ones who raised me.

“Anyway, that was the family I grew up in. I didn’t get much love from Father, and back at that time in the countryside, boys and girls didn’t really talk much. Your family would always arrange blind dates for you when you were old enough. I am talking about 16 or 17 here. And when both families agreed with each other, your marriage would be done. I didn’t want that. I was so scared that I would get a rubbish guy and then my life would be ruined.

“We 4 girls didn’t go to school much because your grandfather was saving every penny for his son, forcing us to leave school at young ages. But I worked really hard to make money ever since I was a child. I knew I would have to depend on myself for everything.”

I had to interrupt her at this point. “Yes, Mom, I have heard your tough childhood story thousands of times. But how did you meet Dad?”

zoe parents2“Alright, alright,” she said. “We were both paid to help a man to build his house. Our families lived pretty close actually, but we had never met each other before. Then he saw me and got interested in me.”

“Wow, romantic, huh? Fall in love at first sight! You must have been very pretty when you were young.”

“Haha, I was 19 years old when I met him, the best age of my life. But people in the village already started thinking of me as a leftover girl and my mom had started to worry about my marriage already.”

When she said that, I could see her cheeks blush. “Wow, Mom, you are blushing. Are you shy now? Haha!”

“Ah no, I just never talked about it to anyone before. So for several days, he helped me a lot. I was a little shy but would touch his arm and pay attention to him. He was a very straight and honest man; those are his best qualities.”

“So what happened later? You didn’t marry him after that, did you?”

“So for many days, we talked a lot whenever we had the time. His family situation was rough, too. His mom died at a young age because of cancer. He also had 3 younger brothers. His father, now your grandfather, couldn’t afford 4 sons at the same time, so as the oldest son in the family, your father accepted his responsibility. He dropped out of school and started working for very little money.

“This was the life for 70 out of 100 Chinese countryside families back at that time. Poor! We worked very hard but got very little in return. You think it unfair? Talk to Chairman about it! You do whatever the Party wanted you to do. When they wanted to make steel, every family had to donate whatever was made from metal in their houses… well, taken is a better word because if you didn’t do it, they just came to your house and smashed everything.”

“Oh yeah, I know about that time. Then you had to go to the community canteen to eat, and would only get a certain amount of food, barely enough to fill a stomach. And then after that period, you didn’t work for yourselves, you worked for the community and earned point tickets. Then you can buy food with those tickets. Of course, this was after they took all the cookers to try and make steel and failed. And the Red Army, just savages, tried to take down all educated men. Oh god, this was the darkest time and stupidest time, wasn’t it?”

“Haha, you tell me! I am so glad you didn’t have to go through all these things.”

“Oh, back to business. We can talk about that another time. What happened later between you and dad?”

“Oh well, it was a small village, so he used to walk me home when we finished work. One day, he told me he was going to Guangzhou because there were more job opportunities and salaries were much better. After hearing this, I was a bit upset, but I didn’t say anything. ‘I will call you when I can,’ he said. ‘And I want you to visit me there, would you?’ he begged. ‘Ah, well, I don’t have enough money to buy a ticket,’ I said. ‘Don’t worry. I will send you some money when I get paid,’ he said. ‘You don’t have to do that. You need to send the money to your family!’ ‘I like you, Ju!’ he said. For a few seconds, I couldn’t hear my heartbeat, and then I could feel my face burning and my heart was beating like a running deer. ‘Ah, umm… I have to go home now, bye,’ was all I could say. And I just ran off! After a few seconds, he shouted loudly, ‘I am leaving in 4 days. I hope to see you at the bus stop.’ I didn’t answer him; I just kept running and running.”

“Hahaha. Mom, you were so cute!”

“The next day, I saw him outside my house. He waved at me when he saw me, so I walked towards him very slowly, ‘I came to tell you I leave in 3 days. I hope you will come see me off at the bus stop,’ he said. ‘Ah, I am not sure if I am free that day. I will see, ok?’ I lied. ‘I really want you to come,’ he pleaded. ‘Ok, I will see,’ I said.”

“Oh, Mom, you are a terrible liar!”

“Time went fast. I didn’t see him for the next two days. On the last day, I was still hesitant about if I should go or not, so I talked to one of my sisters about it. She said, ‘well, I think you should go. It’s only a goodbye. It won’t do you any harm. I think you like him a little bit, actually. Just go to say goodbye.’

“So I went to see him off at the bus stop. I could tell he was really happy I was there. He waved to me even after he got on the bus and until I couldn’t see him anymore. For some reason, something in my heart was changing. That day was beautiful – pure blue sky and beautiful sunshine. The last thing he told me was ‘I will call you.’
zoe parents“He called me after 3 weeks. He told me about his life there, that he missed me, that he wanted me to visit him, that he would send me the money to visit him after he got his first paycheck. We talked so much that day. It was nice. The next time he called me, it was a month later.”

“Why did it take so long?”

“You silly girl. Technology wasn’t so good back at that time. We didn’t have mobile phones, and your grandfather didn’t have a telephone. The only way he could call me was to call the central telephone house in the village, and then somebody would have to come over and tell me I had a phone call. Then after a few minutes, he would have to call again to check if I were there. That time he called me to tell me the factory he was working for was holding a month’s salary for some insurance. So later, after he got paid, he sent me the money to buy a ticket as he promised. I stayed there for 3 days. He took 3 days off work, showed me around, and we saw some interesting things that I never knew existed. And when it came time for me to go back home, your father gave me all his salary, only leaving very little for himself. He said I was going to need it.

“So that was how I knew your father was a reliable man and I decided to accept him. Then the next year, I went to Guangzhou with him and got a job there. After we had saved enough money, we got married.

“So that is the story how I met your father. It’s not as romantic as you may think, but it is pure and real. In a society where everybody cares about money and power and romance, he is the one and only in my life. He gives me love and I love him too.”

I can’t help but think to myself, ‘no, this is the most romantic thing and greatest love I have ever known.’

 

zoe-face (1)Zoe Gong was born in rural Hunan in 1995 and is fluent in English. She has worked in English training centers and at expat restaurants since she was 16. She is currently a tourism management major at Changsha University in Hunan. 

SIGN UP AND GET A SNEAK PEEK AT THE FIRST CHAPTER OF MY NEW NOVEL THE EMPEROR'S SEAL
We respect your privacy.